Regular readers will attest to my repulsion for plot spoilers – it's always been my strong preference, as humble film critic, to reveal only the very basic tenants of the story and allow the viewer to be his own tourist guide. However, "The Forgotten" presents a bitter dilemma – to help understand the film's failure, I am faced with a pressing need to discuss its story and that ridiculous twist ending which should send pangs of pain through any logic-based living being. So, if you intend to watch "The Forgotten" (and I suggest you do but only for purposes of healthy debate) then switch off this review and come back once you know all the facts first-hand.
Still here? Don't say I didn't warn you! Julianne Moore is Telly Parada, an emotional wreck deep in therapy. Reason – she lost her nine-year-old son to a plane crash and her only solace now is in the family photos and home videos. But one day she finds her son missing from the photos and the videos – wiped clean. Not even her loving husband, Jim (Anthony Edwards) or her caring friends remember he ever existed! Has Telly completely lost her mind? Her psychiatrist (Gary Sinise) has this to say: "Telly, you never had a son. Sometimes people go around and invent alternate lives, with imagine friends, and imagine families." We suspect it's not so because Telly meets ex-hockey star, Ash Correll (Dominic West) who has been a drunk for over a year – why, he has no clue. But Telly does; she forces Ash to remember the daughter he lost in the same plane crash, the memory of which has been erased. Then Telly and Ash begin to be chased by incompetent NSA agents confirming the government's involvement in a wider conspiracy. Telly confides that "we are being watched." At this point I had accepted the fact that there are only two reasonable outcomes to this story: One, Telly is delusional or two, this film is a reinvention of Francis Ford Coppola's classic "The Conversation." I was not game for what was about to revealed.
Are you ready? There are aliens who are experimenting on select individuals and they have abducted Telly and Ash's children to observe the bond of parental love; they have also erased the memory of these abductees from multiple minds. It's an inventive twist, alas there is no pay-off as the film dives into monster clichés and stereotypes. There is a dramatic climatic confrontation between Telly and an alien (who looks human of course). At this stage expositions and special effects are mercilessly piled on as we reach for the inner sanctum of our intelligence. Ultimately the aliens are defeated in their macabre experiment because they are unable to figure out the metaphysical nature of a mother's love. The kids are restored to the present. Everything goes back to normal as if nothing had happened. This punches open a lot of holes: If the aliens have the technology and expertise to alter multiple realities then surely figuring out human behaviour should be a walk in the park, right? Why did our extra-terrestrials return the kids – surely not out of the goodness of their hearts because we are told repeatedly that "humans are lab rats" to them? Have the writers tried to sneakily pawn off the brilliance of Alex Proyas' "Dark City"?
"The Forgotten" is preposterous. Though, at the very least, it is technically accomplished and is fortunate to have a very talented actress in its lead. - Adnan Khan